Thousands gathered to watch King Charles in his first Trooping the Colour as monarch in a Birthday Parade that marked the first time a reigning monarch has ridden in on horseback in over 30 years and culminated in a spectacular flypast.
Charles, 74, was flanked by his son, William the Prince of Wales, and siblings Prince Edward and Princess Anne, who all rode horses gifted by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police – bringing back a tradition enjoyed by his mother, the late Queen, who rode in the annual parade until 1986.
Senior royals, including the Princess of Wales and her children, later gathered the balcony of Buckingham Palace where they waved to well-wishers on The Mall who sang the national anthem and gave three cheers to the monarch.
But as usual, it was Prince Louis who stole the show. The five-year-old royal fan favourite was photographed pinching his nose, pulling funny faces, and playing with his hair as he accompanied his siblings Prince George and Princess Charlotte, en-route to the military parade commemorating his grandfather’s first “official” birthday as sovereign.
Edward’s wife Sophie, the Duchess of Edinburgh, and Princess Anne’s husband, Vice Admiral Sir Timothy James Hamilton Laurence, were also present for the ceremony.
Notably absent were the Harry and Meghan, after the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were reportedly “not invited”. Prince Andrew, his daughters princesses Beatrice and Eugenie and the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh’s children, Lady Louise and James, Earl of Wessex, were also not present.
When he arrived at the parade ground, King Charles was greeted with a royal salute after which he inspected the assembled 1,400 troops.
The central part of the parade features a battle flag — or the “Colour” — being displayed and marched past troops and the monarch. This is a ceremonial reenactment of the way regimental flags were once displayed for soldiers on the battlefield to provide a crucial rallying point if they became disoriented or separated from their unit.
A different flag is trooped each year and this year the “Colour” was the King’s Color of the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards.
Prince William was appointed Colonel of the Welsh Guards in December 2022, with Kate taking over from him as Colonel of the Irish Guards.
Princess Kate picked an emerald green dress by Singapore-born designer Andrew Gn to match her new military title. She also subtly paid tribute to William’s mother Diana, who wore green for her first Trooping the Colour as Princess of Wales in 1981.
After Charles inspected the troops at House Guards Parade, the family returned to Buckingham Palace before assembling on the balcony for what is typically a showstopping aerial display.
This year, however, the flypast was even more impressive, as 70 aircrafts took part on Saturday, including Spitfire and Hurricane fighters from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. The ramped up display made a welcome return to royal celebrations, having been scaled down due to bad weather at the King’s coronation in May.
The display also 18 typhoon jets arranged in a formation that read “CR” — “Charles Rex” which is Latin for “king” — to the cheers of the royal family and thousands of spectators.
The Red Arrows, as the Royal Air Force’s aerobatic team is known, then painted the sky the colours of Britain’s flag, as the King and Queen thanked the royal fans for their support.
Before leaving the balcony, Prince Louis gave the crowds a two-handed wave, just as he did at his grandfather’s coronation, as fans on Twitter crowned him the star of royal engagements.
The Trooping the Colour ceremony is a royal tradition that dates back over 260 years to the 18th century, when it was reportedly first performed during the reign of King Charles II in 1748.
Additional reporting by wires.
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